Pandemic tops agenda as UK hosts G7 leaders’ meet next week

Britain said Saturday it will use the first leaders’ meeting of its G7 presidency next week to seek more global cooperation on coronavirus vaccine distribution and post-pandemic recovery plans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will host G7 heads of state for a virtual meeting on Friday, their first gathering since April 2020 and US President Joe Biden’s first major multilateral engagement since taking office last month.

They are meeting at a seaside retreat in Cornwall in southwestern England on June 11-13, after last year’s gathering in the United States was shelved because of the pandemic.

Johnson is eager to boost Britain’s post-Brexit profile and his own international standing, after criticism of his tactics during the country’s fraught divorce from the European Union and his support for ex-US president Donald Trump.

He has vowed to focus his G7 presidency on better coordinating the international response to the pandemic, as well as climate change ahead of Britain hosting a UN conference on climate change, COP26, in November.

“The solutions to the challenges we face… lie in the discussions we have with our friends and partners around the world,” Johnson said in a statement released late Saturday.

He added “quantum leaps in science” had helped produce the Covid-19 vaccines needed to end the pandemic, and that world governments now had a responsibility to work together to distribute them. 

“I hope 2021 will be remembered as the year humanity worked together like never before to defeat a common foe,” Johnson said.

Friday’s virtual gathering will see him host the leaders of the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, as well as the presidents of the European Council and the EU Commission.

Later in February, he will also chair a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on the link between climate change and conflict — the first time a UK leader has chaired such a session since 1992. 

The discussions at the meeting will inform crucial action ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 Summit to be held November 1-12 in the Scottish city of Glasgow, his Downing Street Office said.  

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